Is city hall vulnerable to an attack? Staff report calls for enhanced security

A staff report is asking council to enhance security measures at city hall and Nathan Phillips Square, including metal detectors and baggage checks.

Report calls for screening, partitions, vehicle barriers at city hall

City council will debate enhanced security measures for city hall next Tuesday. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

A staff report is asking council to enhance security measures at city hall and Nathan Phillips Square, including metal detectors and baggage checks. 

The report cites the national threat level, which has been at medium since Oct. 17, 2014 after an attack on Parliament Hill left a young soldier dead, as a reason to tighten security.

"As there is no indication that the level will again be lowered anytime in the near future, there is a need to consider security enhancements as more permanent in nature," the report reads. 

A medium level indicates that a violent act or terrorism could occur. 

Detectors, baggage checks, barriers, partitions

In addition to metal detectors and baggage checks, the report calls for barriers to stop vehicles, and screens in select committee rooms and the council chamber. Councillors will debate the report on Tuesday.

Staff estimates there would be a one-time cost of $500,000 and $774,000 annually to implement the changes.

But Toronto city hall is a multi-purpose building long known for its open doors.There is a wedding chapel, library, cafeteria and a multitude of other public services offered in the building. On a cold winter day, it sometimes even serves as a brief source of warmth for people living on the streets. 

There is a security desk set up at the main entrance but no searches or identification is required. Security cameras and guards are often visible throughout the building. 

Toronto's city hall is more than just the seat of the municipal govenrment. It also houses a wedding chapel, library, cafeteria and more. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

Mayor John Tory says public accessibility also has to be an important consideration. 

"I want people to feel comfortable coming here. At the same time, I want the thousands of people that come here and work here every day to be safe," he told reporters Thursday. 

However, Tory does say city hall security isn't as tight as it is in similar public spaces. 

More security at rock concerts and hockey games

"The public goes to rock concerts and hockey games and many other buildings in the Queen's Park and court houses and private sector office buildings where they face more security than they face here," he said.

Tory added that more feedback is needed before he can definitively weigh in on the issue. 

"I want to hear from the employees, our staff, city staff and the public about the balancing act and where you draw that line."

The report, informed by consultations with Toronto police and Public Safety Canada, saw some criticism on social media.